What Men Can Do to Stay Sober
by Andy Andersen
Generally speaking, alcoholism affects men and women differently. Men and women also have different triggers for relapse. Men are much more likely to relapse through social situations than women, making the navigation of sober life particularly challenging upon initial re-entrance into the real world. Here are a few tips for men to stay sober while moving forward.
Consider transitional living options
Sober living homes and other transitional sober living options are a growing field in the addiction recovery industry, primarily because of their success in helping men transition from rehab into sober life. Most sober living facilities help men to remain sober through creating an alcohol-free environment where recovered alcoholics can reclaim their sense of self. New, healthy ways of coping with anxiety and the stresses of life may also be explored, as well as new ways of social interaction and connection that don't revolve around alcohol. Transitional sober living may not be necessary for every man, but every man should at least consider it as a viable option.
Seek treatment for self-medicating disorder
Alcoholism is not necessarily a manifestation of self-medication, but when it is, it can be particularly challenging for men if not properly diagnosed. Self-medicating disorder often requires it's own treatment, even if a patient has ceased drinking. Getting help with the root of the problem will decrease the chance of relapse significantly. For men, treating self-medicating disorder can be especially helpful in helping them to move forward without trying to bury issues that need to be resolved.
Avoid other addictive behaviors
There may be other addictive behaviors in an alcoholic man's life that will only exacerbate dormant desires to drink again. Many alcoholics, for instance, also smoke cigarettes. Giving up smoking and other addictive behaviors as well as drinking will exponentially increase a man's chances of staying sober.
Don't date too soon
Dating and sex within the first year or two of recovery is one of the biggest relapse triggers for men. It's increasingly easier to end up in a destructive relationship during the early stages of the healing process. Regardless of whether or not a relationship turns out well, it will inevitably place focus on the relationship when you should be focused on recovery. Take the necessary time to focus on healing and self-improvement before entering the dating world again.
Find alcohol free social activities
Recent studies show that men have greater dopamine releases when socially drinking than women. This explains why men frequently relapse from exposure to social drinking situations while still healing. Groups like AA are successful for men because they are a social situation completely void of alcohol. Having social activities or hobbies that don't involve drinking can make a big difference for a man trying to stay sober.
Continue to connect with others
It's particularly important for men recovering from alcoholism to continue engaging with family and friends that are healthy influences. Men often relapse because they feel they need to recover on their own. This is a dangerous attitude because it isolates the recovering alcoholic from others while simultaneously exposing them to other things that might cause a relapse. In sober life it's as important as ever to reach out and let others reach out to you.
Maintain a strong support system
While women are more likely to relapse from loneliness, men are less likely to maintain a strong support system. In addition to continuing to engage in healthy relationships, men are also less likely to attend 12-step meetings and other aftercare activities for as long as they need to. As you approach the unique challenges of sober life, you need your support system firmly in place for the long haul.
Stay on the lookout for relapses
Like any disease, relapse is usually part of the recovery process for addiction. When a setback occurs, men in recovery are unfortunately prone to let it become an excuse to continue drinking. It's important to identify your triggers and consciously re-evaluate how to avoid them when they arise. Study up on on male relapse triggers here for more information on how to overcome a potential setback.